Racism… it’s the new black

I got home today, and as I usually do, popped into Glenn Greenwald at Salon, to see if he’d gotten all Greenwaldian and put up another post while I was at work, knowing that if he hadn’t, the letters would have poured in since 6:00am and it could take a whole bottle of something to catch up.  I didn’t feel I had that kind of time.  Fortunately but unsurprisingly, he had indeed put up a second post, about today’s Supreme Court decision overturning Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s circuit court decision in the Ricci case.  Great!  I not only got some breaking news, having been away from KPOJ all day, and even the possibility of a manageable comment thread, which was only 20 pages or so at the time.  Things went downhill from there, unfortunately, and I was once again moved to write about a familiar subject before I was more than a dozen pages into it.  I apologize for my redundancy. 

Racism has now emerged as basically all the Republicans have left at this point, and to a disturbing degree, it’s working for them. From wars to taxes to astonishing breaches of centuries-old civil liberties, it’s the (hormone and antibiotic-laced) whipped cream and the (maraschino) cherry that covers up, if a bit barely, the shit sundae they’re serving.  The Ricci case, of course, is ready made for the right, because it conjures up  its favorite chimera of white people being constant, beleaguered targets of “reverse-racism,” as they quaintly used to call it, but now they’ve officially turned racism itself into something exclusively practiced by its historic victims against the white, whose idea it inconveniently was in the first place.  Even Archie Bunker would have gasped such audacity, but there it is.  What made the Greenwald thread so compelling and revealing to me were two things; commenters previously identified with white racist views had a lot to say, as you’d expect, but more frightening was the fact that a whole new crop of defenders of the white also showed up in what was clearly a new place for them, to offer similar, and of course similarly worded, attacks on the very idea that affirmative action, and the landmark civil rights laws from which it sprang, is anything but a vengeful war on white people.  We’ve come a long way, Baby.

When I was in college in the early 80′s, this rhetorical trick, which is nothing more than the projection that is always psychologically appealing to authoritarians, was first repackaged as a “free speech” rebellion against the stifling “political correctness” that supposedly was responsible for the intolerable smothering of racist and homophobic thought in public discourse, and once that disingenuous but admittedly clever idea took hold, they were off to the races, no pun intended.  You see, conservative policies, which can pretty much be summarized as the relentless and socially destructive upward transfer of wealth and power that they love, are extremely difficult to sell honestly, so conservatives have really honed their skills at figuring a way around that.  On some level, you have to hand it to them.

Racist talk, whether about Blacks, Muslims, or “Illegals,” (meaning all hispanics), now has gained such a broad audience through talk radio and FOX that people are simply no longer embarrassed to say things that I would have, and did, cringe in horror to hear my grandmother, Etta, say publicly in the 1970′s.  And even more alarmingly, because there is another layer of more rational sounding arguments in the layers above the sewers of Limbaugh and Savage that appeal to the same tribalist hate on a more tasteful level, there are a lot of people who are not the least embarrassed to give voice to such flat bigotry even at a a blog like Greenwald’s,and do so in complete, correctly spelled sentences and everything. No clumsy Archie Bunkerisms like “Capital Punishment is a well-known detergent to crime” here.  Like good cartoons as well as  good propaganda, the meaning is designed to be on two levels.  One for the dumb, one for the merely cynical; one for the kids, one for the grownups.

All they reveal though, despite their efforts, is that the best thing about not being a racist is that it makes you smarter; a person so suspicious of those outside his own tribe (it’s almost always a “he”) is necessarily dumber than those less sheltered, but he’s also dumb enough to vote Republican, which really was the basis of the Southern Strategy all along.  I may be a failure, and perhaps more significantly, an insufferable , lying asshole, but dang it, at least I’m white.   That ought to count for something.

21 Comments

  1. bystander says:

    These discussions always bring me back to the same movie and the same story told in it. From Mississippi Burning:

    Ward: Where does it come from, all this hatred?

    Anderson: You know when I was a little boy, there was an old negro farmer that lived down the road from us, named Monroe. He was … (subtle laugh), I guess he was just a little more luckier than my daddy was. He bought himself a mule. It was a big deal in round that town. Now my daddy hated that mule. Kuse, his friends were always kidding him about, “They saw Monroe out plowing with his new mule and Monroe is going to rent another field now he had a mule.” One morning that mule showed up dead. They poisoned the water. After that, there wasn’t any mention about that mule around my daddy. It just never came up. One time we were driving down that road and we passed Monroe’s place and we saw it was empty. He just packed up and left, I guess, he must of went up north or something. I looked over at my daddy’s face, I knew he done it. He saw that I knew. He was ashamed. I guess he was ashamed. He looked at me and said, “If you ain’t better than a nigger son, who are you better than?”

    Ward: I think that’s an excuse.

    Anderson: No it’s not, excuse. It’s just a story about my daddy.

    Ward: Where’s that leave you?

    Anderson: With an old man who just so full of hate that he didn’t know that being poor was what was killing him.

    Poverty is relative, and can be measured many different ways, along an array of dimensions.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Yes, and its often a poverty of the spirit. The bad part is that it sells. Great quote, Bystander; I’ve never seen “Mississippi Burning,” but now I’d like to.

      • bystander says:

        Yes. And, those who aren’t financially poor, but understand the benefit in providing a scapegoat for those who are, reap large gains from those individuals too hate filled to understand that their alliance makes them useful fools, and tools.

  2. heru-ur says:

    Hag,

    You will find over the course of your life that there are racists on every side of this issue. The racists come in black and white, Democrat and Republican, English speaker and Spanish speaker, liberal and conservative, powerful and weak, smart and stupid, educated and non-educated and many other opposites.

    I will say to you that having the government force people to pretend to like each other will never work — you end up with cynical, embittered men and women on both sides.

    I have dealt with young folks all my life, and they have a real nose for “fairness”. If you say to them that student X is due and extra 10 points on her test because she is needy or whatever — that just will not work. Nor will the kids in their 20s learn to treat others equal as long as inequality is enshrined in law.

    Have fun feeling all superior, but the only way out of this horrible race/group war is to treat every human as — well, as a human.

    An individual human.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I don’t buy it. Anyone who thinks a cracker cretin like Newt Gingrich calling Sotomayor a racist is anything but racist, and some pretty crazy projection, too, has a screw loose. White male privilege is alive and well…. and the poor quality of its defenders tells you why.

      • heru-ur says:

        What makes you think I would toss that Gingrich a life-preserver if I saw him fall overboard on a cruise ship? What does he have to do with this topic, other than he tries to make political hay off off the fears and hatreds of various groups.

        So what is it that you “don’t buy”? Do you think treating all of God’s children as individuals, each worth exactly the same is something you can not support? Why?

        • cocktailhag says:

          Because it’s manipulative hogwash. God’s creatures have never been treated equally, from the crusades to slavery to Jim Crow. And now the right is making hay off this horseshit concept that white men are the victims of racism, and you’ve fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

          • heru-ur says:

            Yes, I have fallen for the truth hook, line, and sinker.

            You see, it is not a group that is discriminated against when some are given preferential treatment. It is some poor sod who never did anything wrong that gets fucked over. As long as you do not care about trying to make the government and the law treat each individual the same — guess what, there will always be hatred and preferential treatment.

            Our system works best when all men and women are treated the same. If you do not buy that — name the names of innocent young children that you want to see treated as second class just to make you feel better.

        • cocktailhag says:

          And when was it that the system worked that way? Before Affirmative Action? I don’t remember that. And the “poor sods” in question, like Frank Ricci and Alan Bakke, nonetheless have a lot more champions than you’d expect a poor sod to have, seeing how the right grabs hold of any such case to use it as a “test” to get rid of laws they don’t like, activist judges at the ready, radio charlatans whipping up white angst over them.

  3. heru-ur says:

    I edited it at my blog where I also posted this, but I do realize the difference between “and” and “an”. Sorry to mess up this otherwise highly literate blog!

  4. retzilian says:

    Somehow I doubt Heru-ur was ever discriminated against or was denied a scholarship to college, a job, or a decent rental property because he was a white male.

    When my first 2 kids were little, we lived in Columbus and they went to a daycare that was like the UN – kids whose parents were profs at OSU, scientists at Battelle, representatives in the government, and the white kids only represented maybe 40% of the population.

    Those kids got along with each other great. My girls never described any of their little mates as “white” or “black” or “brown” or even Asian, Indian, Sufi, Black, whatever. There were not labels.

    You must teach your children to hate other races. It is not human nature for them. We are born colorblind.

    • rmp says:

      Just as I don’t buy there is such a thing as objective journalism, I don’t buy those who say they are color blind, at least those who are over 35. I consider myself a recovering racist having been raised in the ’40s and ’50s in Montana and North Dakota.

      We are creatures of our experiences and environment. Having worked with inner-city kids for 14 years in one of the most diverse communities in America, I agree that our younger generation is far less hung up on color unless they were raised by racist parents. However, even if we lose color as a means of stereotyping and racism, we will still have intolerance based on other factors.

      As long as people are unable to deal with loving themselves without being dependent on needing love and affirmation from others, they will base their worth on being better than someone else. The key words are need versus want. I may very much want love and affirmation, but I don’t need it to love myself and treat others with full respect.

      The people you are rightfully condemning Hag will never receive your praise until they deal directly with their insecurities. If we want a better world, we need to find ways to help everyone feel more secure both physically and mentally. Concentrating on the symptoms delays working on the real problems.

      Education systems that pays little attention to social skills and inner feelings and spend far too much time on academics, versus thinking and accepting responsibility, is sending more intolerant, insecure young adults into our world.

      • cocktailhag says:

        Exactly. Anyone secure in their own self-worth is quite comfortable competing in the workplace with historically disadvantaged people getting a few extra points tossed their way. It makes the whole game fairer.

    • heru-ur says:

      As it turns out, I am a member of a protected minority and I have also been discriminated against on many occasions. I always chalk it up to being of the poor working class rather than anything else.

      MLK was planning a march and a movement to join the poor of all races into one political movement. Then they shot him. Have you ever wondered at the timing?

      You say “we are born colorblind”. I agree. Then why do people want the central government to treat individual members of various groups differently? How does that make sense?

      • cocktailhag says:

        Well, that’s the best argument you’ve put forth, but show me a Republican who offered anything more to working-class whites than union-busting, jingoism, and racism over the last 40 years or so. Just one will do.

        • heru-ur says:

          Why? What does the Republican Party (may they disappear into the dustbin of history) have to do with this issue?

          I am saying that the only way to be moral, fair, and practical is to have law and policy say that we do not discriminate against anyone based on anything. Is that not the classic liberal stance from the get-go? We are all human individuals for Horace sake. Individuals.

          I just do not understand how you think group retribution is going to make everyone all nice and happy. Have you heard of the feuds in the Kentucky mountains?

    • cocktailhag says:

      And thanks to 30 years of hate talk on the radio, a lot of people are busy producing a new generation of little racists. “Color blindness” is just the pseudo-intellectual whitewash used to gloss it over, ineffectively, to my mind.

      • heru-ur says:

        Hag, you seem to be in favor of a continuing race based struggle for all of time. I read you to be saying that there can never, ever be a time when all individuals are to be treated equally. Is this then your position?

  5. TheHeel says:

    Hey Tart,
    good article – as always. Your witty and eloquent style is up there with likes of Lewis Lapham and Maureen Dowd.

    I am all excited that the NYT editors selected my comment (albeit with a stupid typo) this morning as their comment of choice:

    http://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/opinion/08wed1.html?sort=editors-selection

    Keep up the good work and amuse us.

    Cheers!
    (I know you don’t ordinarily drink….)

    The Heel

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